A wind-driven vegetation fire broke out Monday afternoon in the foothills above Santa Barbara, expanding in a few hours to more than 3,100 acres and forcing evacuations of hundreds of homes.
The Cave Fire started at about 4:15 p.m. in the Painted Cave area near East Camino Cielo and State Route 154. The fire grew to 50 acres in the first hour, but soon after exploded to 2,500 acres as winds drove it down canyons to the west.
As of 10 p.m. Monday, the Cave Fire had burned an estimated 3,122 acres, with zero percent containment, said Capt. Daniel Bertucelli, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
Winds reached gusts of 40 to 50 mph during the blaze. The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the South Coast, including the cities of Santa Barbara, Montecito, and Carpinteria at 5:23 pm. The advisory was to remain in effect until 3 a.m, today, although authorities noted that winds were slackening late Monday..
Evacuation orders were issued for areas north of Foothill and Cathedral Oaks roads, with Ontare Road as the eastern boundary of the evacuation area. State Route 154 initially was the western boundary, but the fire jumped the highway at about 7 p.m. and the evacuation area was expanded first to Patterson Road, then Fairview Avenue, as the flames marched west.
An evacuation warning was issued for the area north of Foothill Road from Ontare Road to Gibraltar Road, and for the area west of State Route 154 to El Sueno, below Cathedral Oaks to Calle Real
At 5:50 p.m. State Route 154 was closed between State Route 246 in Santa Ynez and the intersection of 154 and Foothill Road.
The majority of the structures under threat were in the upper San Antonio Creek area, where the fire was burning close to homes as of 10 p.m.
Firefighters embedded themselves in neighborhoods under threat, including areas along Foothill Road, San Antonio Creek Road, Old San Marcos Road, and Cieneguitas Road. As of 10 p.m., there were no reports of structure damaged, Capt. Bertucelli said.
Some 500 firefighters responded to the emergency from Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. At least two night-flying helicopters were dispatched to assist. More aircraft were expected after daybreak today.
As of 10 p.m, the winds mid-slope had slowed to 10 mph, a “mellow” condition, Capt. Bertucelli said.
He could not confirm whether evacuation orders would be expanded.
“That’s all dependent on fire conditions. If the wind surfaces again and the fire begins to start ripping again, then of course,” he said.
CIty spokesman Anthony Wagner confirmed that winds were easing late Monday.
“Spot weather reports suggest that this current wind-driven event will dissipate toward midnight,” said Mr. Wagner.
A Red Cross Evacuation Center has been established at Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Road. Residents can also contact the Santa Barbara County emergency call center at (833) 688–5551.
Small animals can be taken to Goleta Animal Shelter at 5473 Overpass Road. Large animals can be taken to Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real. For assistance, call 805-681-4332
A live evacuation map is available at readysbc.org.
A rainstorm is expected to move into the area late tonight, with a 100 percent chance by early Wednesday and showers continuing later Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service in Oxnard.